NHS watchdog considers anti hair loss pill to combat alopecia

NHS watchdog considers anti hair loss pill to combat alopecia, which affects celebrities such as Jada Pinkett Smith, offering hope to 100,000 people

  • Last week European drugs regulators approved daily anti hair loss pill 
  • The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence are assessing the drug  

Adults and teens with the severe hair loss condition alopecia areata could soon be offered a breakthrough medicine that can trigger regrowth in just six months.

Last week the European drugs regulators approved ritlecitinib, and it is currently being assessed by NHS spending watchdog the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Alopecia areata is one of the more common causes of hair loss and usually begins in childhood or early adulthood. It is caused by the body’s immune system attacking hair follicles, and is characterised by patches of baldness.

But ritlecitinib has been found to reverse the condition in one in five patients.

There are roughly 100,000 alopecia areata sufferers in the UK, which experts believe may be caused by genetics.

Jada Pinkett Smith, pictured, suffers from Alopecia areata, a common hair loss condition which affects 100,000 Britons

NHS watchdogs are considering whether they will authorise a daily pill to counter alopecia

Actress Jada Pinkett Smith suffers with the condition, which came to global focus at the Oscars in April last year when host Chris Rock made a joke about it and was slapped on stage by her husband, actor Will Smith.

Taken as a daily pill, ritlecitinib is part of a family of drugs known as janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, which work by dampening the immune system.

Results from a large study published earlier this year showed that 13 per cent of patients achieved 90 per cent or more scalp hair coverage after 24 weeks of taking the drug, compared with 1.5 per cent of those on a placebo. Almost half of the those treated with ritlecitinib reported ‘moderate’ to ‘great’ improvement in their hair loss.

But there was no significant growth after just 12 weeks, meaning patients would have to commit to longer-term treatment. Some side effects were also reported, including diarrhoea, acne, upper respiratory tract infections, skin problems and dizziness.

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